When applying for Social Security Disability (SSD/SSI) benefits, there are inevitably going to be several roadblocks that an applicant must overcome. The SSD/SSI program is run by the Social Security Administration, and like any other government agency, has a number of complex rules and requirements that can incorrectly deny benefits to even the most qualified applicants.
Therefore, applicants should always go into the application process with as much support for their disability claim as is possible. A letter from an applicant's treating physician stating that an applicant is unable to work can be an essential tool in receiving the Social Security Disability coverage that is needed and deserved.
There are several tactics that will make a doctor's letter more effective. First, ensure that the correspondence clearly and notably includes the applicant's name and social security number. This will avoid the letter being misplaced or, at worst, discarded.
Second, applicants should instruct their doctor to avoid simply rehashing their medical history, which will be sufficiently covered by the medical records an applicant is required to submit. Instead, the letter should contain a statement of opinion about how the applicant's specific medical condition limits his or her ability to perform work-related functions. This is called a medical source statement, and it carries special weight with the Social Security Administration.
Within the medical source statement, the doctor should list the physical work-related functions that an applicant is unable to perform with great specificity about how the medical condition limits the specific function. Some of the several possibly-affected functions are:
- The weight an applicant can frequently lift and carry
- How many hours an applicant can sit, stand, or walk in an eight-hour day
- Climbing, balancing, kneeling, crawling, reaching in all directions
- Vision, including near and far acuity and depth perception
- Hearing and speaking
- Environmental limitations
In general, the Social Security Administration will accept the limitations set forth by an applicant's doctor, as long as they are reasonable, so it is in an applicant's best interest to obtain and submit one of these letters.
Source: thedisabilityexpert.com, "A Letter From Your Doctor About Your Claim For Social Security Disability Benefits - Physical Impairments", R.M. Bottger